Ramanathan: From Civil Service to Presidency

Ramanathan: Singapore's Longest-Serving President

Ramanathan :- In the vibrant tapestry of Singapore’s history, one name stands out as a beacon of resilience, leadership, and service – Ramanathan.

Ramanathan’s Early Life and Education

Ramanathan, born on 3 July 1924, into a Tamil Indian family, faced early adversities that shaped his character. Raised in Muar, Johor, his father’s tragic suicide when Nathan was eight forced the family to return to Singapore, where financial struggles loomed large.

Despite being expelled from school twice, Nathan’s determination led him to complete his education through a correspondence course with Wolsey Hall, Oxford.

His entry into the University of Malaya marked the beginning of a journey that would see him as the Secretary of the University Socialist Club and a graduate with distinction in Social Studies in 1954.

Civil Service Career

Ramanathan‘s dedication to public service became evident when he joined the Singapore Civil Service in 1955 as a medical social worker. His trajectory included roles such as Seamen’s Welfare Officer and significant contributions to the Labour Research Unit of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Notably, during the Laju incident in 1974, Ramanathan’s courage earned him the Meritorious Service Medal. His career saw diverse roles, including First Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry and executive chairmanship of the Straits Times Press.

Presidency (1999–2011)

Elevated to the presidency in 1999, S. R. Nathan’s leadership extended beyond ceremonial duties. His initiation of the President’s Challenge charity fundraising initiative in 2000 exemplified his commitment to societal well-being. Re-elected unopposed in 2005, he served two terms, a testament to his popularity and effective governance.

In 2009, Ramanathan’s approval of a significant financial drawdown showcased his willingness to navigate unprecedented challenges for the nation’s welfare.

Post–Presidency (2011–2016)

Choosing not to seek a third term in 2011, Ramanathan transitioned seamlessly into post-presidential life. His book, “An Unexpected Journey: Path to the Presidency,” unveiled insights into his remarkable life. The establishment of the S. R. Nathan Educational Upliftment Fund underscored his commitment to education.

As a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Singapore Management University and a patron of various institutions, Ramanathan continued contributing to societal development.

Personal Life and Legacy

Married to Urmila Nandey since 1958, Nathan’s family life reflected stability amid his demanding career. His legacy extends beyond awards and honors, including the renaming of the SUSS School of Human Development in his honor.

Illness and Death

Tragically, S. R. Nathan’s vibrant journey came to an end on 22 August 2016, at the age of 92, following a stroke. Singapore mourned the loss of its longest-serving president, honoring him with a state funeral.

Legacy and Honors

Nathan’s legacy lives on through honors like the Al-Khalifa Order, Asia-Pacific Regional Distinguished Scout Award, and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman from the Government of India.

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